Thursday, August 3, 2017

ArkivDigital photographs Swedish-American church records .


When the Swedes emigrated to the United States and Canada, they often formed their own Swedish-speaking churches. The  oldest were founded in  the late 1840-thies and the beginning of the 1850-thies and the last in the 1920-thies  The largest congregation   was the lutheran Augustana synod . The most important of the others were the Evangelical  Covenant church  and ther were also Swedish baptist and Methodist congregations as well as the Evangelical Free church 

During the 1970-thies and 1980-thies, Lennart Setterdahl  was commissioned by the Swedish Emigrant Institute to microfilm much of the chrurchrecords . The microfilms  are currently available at the Swedish Emigrant Institute in Växjö and at the  Swenson Swedish Emigration Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois,
Last year, Arkivdigital began digitizing the Swedish-American church archives in several states to the delight of professsional and emigrant and family researchers. The digitization also includes material from some churches  that have not previously been filmed. In 2016, material from Kansas was digitized, This year,work on   digitizing materials from Minnesota and Nebraska has begun. ArkivDigital tells about the progress of their work at their blog


Warren Johnson and Sven Henning photographing
 Swedish-American church records
in Omaha Nebraska
 photo Arkivdigital





Friday, July 21, 2017

Murder on Christmas night! The shooting of Swan Nelson in Chicago 25 Dec 1893 Part 2

Swan Nelson was buried on December 28nd  at Oakwood Cemetery outside Chicago. The burial service was most likely performed by pastor Carl Granath of the swedish-speaking Zion Evangelical Lutheran church which Swan and his relatives attended. In its It is burial record he is listed as "shot December 25th 3 AM" 


note about  Swan Nelsons burial inthe burial records from
Zion Evangelical Lutheran church in Chicago microfilm SAKA 192
 Swedish Emigrant Institute, Växjö,Sweden.

 The news of his death spread fast  among the Swedish-Americans in Chicago and caused great anger . It increased the ethnic tensions between  Swedish-Americans and Irish-Americans.The Chicago Daily News described the shooting as unjustified and the Swedish-American newspapers raged. The Swedish-American organisations quickly organised The Swedish National League to raise money for an investigation and legal counsel to make sure the two policemen were tried and punished. The leaders of the  committee were  contractor August G Myhrman, lawyer Harry Olsson and William Wennerholm. Support also came from the Swedish-American newspapers , including Svenska Tribunen




(from :Swedish-American Historical Quaterly 2014 jan no. 1page .41)


Quick to join in wasthe 25-year-old entrepreneur Fred Lundin known for his "Juniper-Ade" he  was elected chairman of the committee. The first mass meeting was held on January 7th and gathered 400 participants.More than 20 mass meetings were held between january and October 1894 and around  8,000 were gathered (about $ 200,000 in today's money value) .Several Swedish-American churches and clubs became involved in the matter.  A private detective was hired to search for  witnesses and a well known lawyer  Luther Laflin Mills  was retained.  

The biggest event for collecting money was a big concert held on May 26 1894in the new Auditorium Theatre , featuring t 400 singers and musicians andan audience of  around 4500 listeners.
The trial against Healy and Moran opened  on January 7, 1895. The proceedingsoffered a lot of drama and was given extensive coverage  by the Chicago newspapers. A juror was removed for perjury and indicted,during the trial there were charges of jury tampering and witnessess being  influenced and allegations of a police cover-up. . The defense argued that there were no unlawful killing since Swan nelson had fled the policeand that anyone could have fired the bullet.
 In the end, Luther Laflin Mills adressed the jury and  held a long speech in which he depicted Swan Nelson as a innocent  young man brutally shot  by two corrupt police officers and he  concluded:

"Lying on the ground dying with his lefeblood flowing on that frost-coveredside-walk,Swan Nelson grasped" I treated them,they wanted more,I refused and the policemen shot me. I am dying,I have done no wrong.´Gentlemen of the jury,this was an awful crime;yours should be an awful verdict"

The jury sentenced the policemen to 14 years in prison for manslaughter . They were sent toThe  Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet Illinois.. The sentence was however  not the end of the story.
The case was appealed and two more trials were  held in the following years.. In the 1897 trial, the sentence was reduced  to 4 years in prison. In 1899, the case was was again back in court, but  it was decided not to hold another trial and  Moran and Healy were returned  to prison . However, according to The 1900 Federal  Census they are not listed aong the prisoners at Illinois State Penitentiary.Perhaps they had been transferred to another prison or released .

                                    (Illinois state Penitentiary Joliet,Illinois ( )
The trial had consequences for all involved Josephine bjorkman died in 1901  Fred Lundin got contacts in politics served in the Illinois state senate and a  term in the House of Representatives congress before becomming the power behind  the corrupt Chicago mayor William Hale Thompson  l Luther Laflin Mills had a succesfull Career as lawyer before his death in 1909 Harry Olson later became first chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Chicago.

Even for Swans family life had to go on. His  brother  John Nelson married his fiancé Maria (Mary) Benson  in february1894 .they got two children Selma and Nels John Nelson became a Saloon keper the family settled in the Austin area of Chicago.John became a member of the of the Indipendent Order of Vikings and later of the Independent order of Svithiod.  .He died in 1938. His only grandchild died unmarried in2007. His sister Elna Neson  married Albert Stedman and died 1944 in San Fransisco,California..
Karna (Carrie) Nelson married John M Anderson  they first lived in Illinois but later moved to Washington near Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Swans youngest  sister Johanna (Hannah) Nelson 1874- married  Oscar Frederick Johnson. they moved from Illinois to  Flint River near   Burlington, Iowa, All sisters left descendants. During the following years the area were Swan Nelson was murdered became the home for many Sicilian immigrants .
The antagonism  between Swedish-Americans and Irish-Americans deacresed with time and they came to direct their prejudices towards newer immigrants and minority groups as East -Europeans and Afro-Americans.

More about the shooting of Swan Nelson can be read in  här i  i The Swedish American Historical Quaterly 2014 jan no. 1

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Murder on Christmas Night ! The shooting of Swan Nelson in Chicago Dec 25 1893 part 1

On  Chistmas Eve 1893 Swan Nelson a young Swedish Emigrant closed his little tobacco store on Archer Ave on Chicagos south side   at 4 pm and walked to his home close by near 32 Street .;
Swan was born as one of 7 surviving children  in 1871 in the village of Magletorp in Trolle- Ljungby in the province of  Skåne (Scania) in southern Sweden as the son of Nils Johnson 1820-1881 and Sissa Johnsdotter 1830-1891.
After the the death of their father, Nels two oldest sisters Elna and Karna emigrated to the USA in 1882.  after their mothers death Sven and his older brother Jöns and their youngest sister Johanna emigrated in march 1892. Sven and Jöns settled in Chicago where their maternal aunt Elna(Ella) Benson and her two children lived..

Trolle-Ljungby kyrka
Trolle-Ljungby church 

In Chicago Jöns and Sven Nilsson quickly became John and Swan Nelson .  Life apparently went well for the two brothers  Swan quickly learned a bit of english and manged to accuire a little tobacco store. He also took part in the social life of the Swedish-Americans in the city. In the summer of 1893 he became one of the charter members of the lodge Angantyr of The Independent order of Vikings. In  the summer and fall of 1893 Chicago also hosted The  Worlds Columbian Exposition .with visitors from allover the USA and the world visiting Chicago.
The city  was also plagued by crime and violence and political corruption  and shortly before  the Exposition closed Chicago mayor Carter Harrison was murdered .


Chicago World's Columbian Exposition 1893
"The White city" The Worlds comumbian Exibition in Chicago 1893

Swan had all reasons to be content with his life in Chicago and to look forward to a bright futute unfortunate his life was cut short all too soon. On Christmas evening  Swan went to a small Christmas party held by his neigbours Otto and Josephine  Bjorkman  . he and the bjorkman family and a few other friends celebrated Christmas Eve the Swedish way with some food and drink.


(Aproximate place where the shooting took place (the street numbers where changed in 1909)

About 2.30 AM  early on Christmas morning Swan left the Bjorkmans home. Despite being early in the mornng he decided to go to the Northelfer´s saloon nearby.  Outside the saloon he met two Irish-american policemen  Michael J Healy and Thomas  J Moran  who had had some drinks in another saloon earlier in the evening.
 They  insisted that Swan should buy them some drinks in the saloon. The three men went inside    where  there where  a few sleepy german-american customers and the bartender .The bartender gave the policemen cigars and Swan bought them each a drink. but when they insisted he should buy them more he refused.

 They then beat him with a club. and then  cleared the saloon. Outside the Saloon the quarell continued. They arrested Swan Nelson and while Mooran went to call the police-wagon Healy held him. Swan then brooke lose and ran towards his home .The two policemen fired 5 shoots (in the air) they later said.
Swan Nelson was hit in the back. Mrs.Bjorkman heard the shot and opened the door.  Mooran entered and said  he had fired at a robber and demanded more whiskey !.Swan Nelson had managed to crawl to his house where mrs Bjorkman found him dying.

 "Here is my watch,mrs Bjorkman"  he said " I am shoot and will die !. the two policemen returned.Healy treatened to shot mrs  Bjorkman if she left the dying man , he also hit her in the face she later testified. Swan Nelson was dragged to the sidewalk where he was heard saying "I die,I die ,I have done no wrong,Have I no friends here? help-I am dying."  The police-wagon arrived and took him  to the hospital where he died later on Christmas day .